You Don’t Know Özil…

Posted: January 21, 2014 in Arsenal FC
Tags: , , , , , ,

I don’t even know where to start. Various outlets that shall not be named come out to say he’s been lacklustre. Some supporters have stated that he’s not been worth the fee paid.  It seems there is some widespread disappointment of Mesut’s opening months of the season. Where did it all go wrong? Well that’s easy to pinpoint, people at every level not understanding what the player brings and what’s been missing from the team to optimize his performances.

Özil’s “pros” run deeper than X goals, X assists, X chances created, X passing percentage,  although those are not too shabby. According to Squawka those numbers currently sit at 4 goals, 7 (others list 8) assists, 51 chances created(the most in Europe) and 88% passing percentage in 17 league appearances. Add to this tally 6 pre-assists or second assists, like the one he had versus Villa when he sent Monreal in who squared the ball for Jack’s goal.

I had the privilege of watching the player live on a number of occasions whilst I lived in Madrid and was always taken aback by how easy he made everything look. I want to delve deeper into what he brings to the Arsenal squad that just isn’t clicking at the moment which has opened the door for these silly complaints from supporters and pundits alike.

Clinical Forwards – Midfield Shooters – Runners 

Özil is lacking three types of players that would benefit from his superb passing and eye for space. The first type is a clinical striker. Giroud, for all his work-rate, combination and hold-up play, is not a clinical striker. He currently sits second from bottom in conversion rate of the top EPL clubs strikers, with a staggeringly low 12.5%, only Soldado is worse; here. Let that sink in. If you go back and watch past matches you will see a multitude of Özil’s passes that have made their way to Giroud in scoring positions only for him to squander those opportunities or not read the play properly and not receive the ball at all. Theo Walcott was a bit better at 15.2%. Bendtner was the best in his limited appearances with a percentage of 25%. The signing of a premier finisher would help Özil and by default, the club.

The second type of player that Arsenal lack at times are midfielders who actually shoot the ball. For all the creativity in the team, the Gunners still want to walk the ball into goal at times. It was refreshing to see earlier in the season Ramsey and in recent weeks Jack then Santi make this less of an issue, but overall it is a problem more often than not. How many times have you sat and watched a match and yelled – “SHOOT!!!”?  Özil himself is guilty of this at times, but coupled with others that do the same, it can lead to long periods of frustration as we have witnessed. A bit more aggressive approach could make all the difference.

The third type of player is a pacey runner that can get behind defences. Arsenal have the poster boy for this type of player, Theo. Unfortunately he’s not been on the field with Özil enough to see that combination thrive as it will in the future. Fortunately with the emergence of Gnabry and the return of Oxlade-Chamberlain, we may yet get to see that type of combination this year. Özil is at his best moving the defence with his quick touches and subtle runs, then unleashing a killer pass for a runner that leaves him clear on goal, there was evidence of that in the match versus Sunderland where he put Theo through several times but the finishing simply wasn’t there. Once this relationship starts to develop, it’ll bring out the best in all parties involved.

Chess –Adapting to a New League – New Teammates 

One of the things I see that brings a smile to my face is how clever the player is. He can move a defence with a deft touch, a slight turn, or a quick pass. The problem is that his new league is not necessarily faster than La Liga, but certainly more physical, and he’s still adjusting to that. He plays chess out on the pitch and his teammates are not quite in tune with him as of yet which leads to misplaced passes, runs that never come, etc. Everything seems to be one step off at the minute, but when it clicks it will be deadly and precise.

In matches where some deem he’s not made a dent, they don’t pay attention to the quick passes that create space for others to make a play. They ignore the runs he makes that pull a couple of defenders with him or the slight turn that makes a defender hesitate and leaves a teammate free to go clear on goal. Those plays don’t show up in the stats and hardly anyone talks about them which is a shame, but if they paid closer attention, one can better appreciate how he can subtly affect the match without having a direct impact.

Mesut also commented the other day on how he was impressed with Rosicky and how he enjoyed playing alongside him. This isn’t a surprise because in many ways, they play very similarly. One thing that strikes me is the tempo at which TR7 plays – always driving forward. This is the same tempo Özil had at Madrid and Germany. I’ve yet to see MÖ go full-out at that speed with Arsenal. I don’t know if that’s due to him wanting to play at the pace of his teammates, if he’s trying to play more within himself or if it’s just a matter of acclimation or system. If Arsenal can play more up-tempo I think you could see the best of Mesut sooner rather than later, and the best of the team as we witnessed in the second half Saturday versus Fulham. Özil and the team as a whole suffer at a lower pace.

Fear

One thing you can’t measure with any stats is the fear he instills in the opposition. The opposition know they must watch him closely, they know of his quality and likely game-plan for it. You only have to look at what Mourinho said about the player prior to the league meeting between Arsenal and Chelsea in December: “I think I know how to try to stop him to be in the game 90 minutes, with 90 minutes of direct influence. But it’s impossible to stop him for 90 minutes, because these kind of players they will have always a moment or a couple of moments where you cannot stop them and they end up showing why they are so good. To stop him completely, I don’t believe we can.”

That kind of respect and necessity for planning can’t be measured and that’s what a talent like Özil brings to the table. The fear factor that can lift a whole squad as it has since his arrival.

Conclusion

At the end of the day there are some things that are clear. The player isn’t playing at 100% yet but that’s due to several factors as I’ve mentioned. Some can be easily tweaked and better results can be had right away. Others will take a signing or two to fix and we’ll see that in the future. But one thing is clear above all else, if you are one of those complaining about Özil or making a statement that he hasn’t been worth the money – You don’t know Özil…and likely you don’t know football as it’s meant to be played.

The best is yet to come from both player and club. It’ll be fun when things click, don’t blink – you might just miss it. Up the Arsenal!

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